Soziale Dynamiken in Küsten- und Meeresgebieten

Workshop: “Narratives and practices of environmental justice”

Institute of Geography at Kiel University

Kiel Marine Science (KMS)

Enjust Network for Environmental Justice


6. - 8. June 2019

Kiel, Germany


The aim of this workshop, organized by the Institute of Geography at Kiel University, Kiel Marine Science (KMS) and the Enjust Network for Environmental Justice emerging at Kiel University, is to advance ongoing debates on environmental and climate justice by focusing on narratives and associated practices, and to foster networking among scholars. First, we want to discuss the conceptualization of environmental justice by academic and non-academic actors in specific environmental conflicts. Second, we want to gain insights on the interrelations between narratives legitimizing environmental unjust outcomes and social practices reproducing them. Third, we are interested in the potential of “designing” narratives of environmental justice for emancipatory politics.


The ongoing environmental crisis has strong implications for environmental justice. A relatively small and wealthy part of the global population claims an ever increasing share of the planet’s resources while polluting and destructing marine and terrestrial habitats. Negatively affected by these developments are especially those groups that are least responsible for them. Moreover, many of the dominant strategies to solve the crisis, either at the planetary, national or local scale, are based on market-driven efficiency logics that transfers the burden to regions with lower opportunity costs and less participation opportunities and political influence.


The concept of environmental justice became a popular narrative of advocacy groups fighting for fair distribution of toxic facilities in the US and has traveled around the world.¹ By strategically employing collective action frames and narratives, social movement actors have categorized situations as unjust and have mobilized political support.² Narratives provide meanings to situations, establish causal relations and place actors within social settings.³ The role of narratives and frames for environmental and climate justice movements was investigated by a number of scholars. However, relatively little is known on the role that narratives might play for a “just transition” ⁴  towards sustainability.


The academic debate on environmental justice initially focused on the distribution of environmental costs (e.g. toxic waste, air pollution), expanded towards the distribution of environmental goods (e.g. green urban space) and to questions of unequal access to land and marine resources. Today, most research on environmental justice and injustice goes beyond investigating aspects of distributional justice. Scholars focus on procedural justice, recognition, access to information and knowledge production, and participation opportunities in decision making processes related to environmental costs. Moreover, scholars increasingly consider the politics of scale of environmental justice. Especially the growing scholarship on climate justice focuses on the scalar politics of climate governance, power asymmetries, north-south relations and on inherently place-based impacts of global warming.





Workshop organization

Silja Klepp, Florian Dünckmann and Jonas Hein

Institute of Geography, Kiel University


1  Martin, A. et al. (2016). Justice and conservation: The need to incorporate recognition, Biological Conservation, 197, pp. 254-261.

2  Sicotte D.M. and Brulle R.J. (2018). Social movements for environmental justice through the lens of social movement theory, in Holifield R., Chakraborty J. and Walker G. (Eds.) The Routledge Handbook of Environmental Justice, Routledge, London and New York, pp. 25-36; Pezzullo, P.C. (2001). Performing critical interruptions: Stories, rhetorical invention, and the environmental justice movement, Western Journal of Communication, 65(1), pp. 1-25.

3  Somers, M. R. (1992). Narrativity, narrative identity, and social action: Rethinking English working-class formation. Social Science History, 16(4), pp. 591-630.

4  Swiling, M. and Annecke, E. (2012). Just Transitions: Explorations of Sustainability in an Unfair World, United Nations University Press, Tokyo, New York, Paris.